As expected, the first case of Zika has finally been confirmed in Arizona. Yesterday, our Arizona State Public Health Laboratory identified Zika virus in a specimen sent to us for testing. The case, an older adult woman in Maricopa County, was infected with the disease while traveling in a country with known Zika virus transmission. There has NOT been any local transmission of Zika virus in Arizona.
There are a few really important things to remember about Zika. First, the risk of local Zika virus spread in Arizona remains very low. Arizona has had travel-associated cases of other similar mosquito-borne diseases (like dengue and chikungunya) in the last year, none of which led to local spread within our state. Our state and local public health departments have solid plans in place to proactively prevent cases of disease, and to rapidly identify and control cases that do occur. At our state lab, we have the capacity to test both people and mosquitoes for Zika, improving state and local ability to rapidly detect cases and initiate control measures.
Secondly, Zika is spread primarily by the bite of an infected mosquito. That means that in order for Zika to cause an outbreak in our state, a person already infected with Zika must be bitten by a mosquito and then that mosquito would need to bite someone else to spread the disease. Simple mosquito prevention measures, like protecting yourself from bites and ridding your home from mosquito breeding areas, will drastically reduce our chances of having an outbreak here in Arizona.
Third, if you’ve traveled to an area with ongoing local spread of Zika virus, you have a role to play in keeping Arizonans healthy when you return. Even if you don’t feel sick, you could have an infection – about 80% of people with Zika don’t develop symptoms. If you’ve recently returned from a Zika-affected area, wear insect repellant to prevent mosquito bites for three weeks after you return. If you develop Zika-like symptoms, visit your healthcare provider to discuss Zika testing. If you are a man with a pregnant partner, use condoms the right way or abstain from sex during pregnancy.
For more information about Zika, you can visit our Zika page here.